Three sets of factors shape choice of method, these 3 factors are methodological, ethical and practical theory. It is debatable which of these factors is the most important.
Theoretical factors are factors that relate to the different views sociologists have or what the nature of society is like and how best to study it to gain knowledge of society the researcher seeks. Theoretical factors are associated with being a positivist influence choice of method. Validity is a theoretical factor. A valid method would be a method that produces a genuine picture of what something is like. A reliable method would be one that another sociologist would be able to repeat and get the same results.
Interpretivists, also known as the “anti-positivism”. They reject the idea of an objective social reality, they believe we construct reality through the meanings we create in our interactions with others. Interpretivists would prefer to use qualitative research as they seek a subjective understanding of meanings and life worlds. This effects there choice of experiment as an Interpretivist would reject a laboratory experiment because it fails to achieve their main goal of validity as it is an unnatural situation producing unnatural behaviour. They would favour a field experiment. It is problematic for an Interpretivist to conduct an experiment as it is challenging to control all variables.
Ethical factors as issues of right and wrong in relation to the choice of subject, behaviour of the researcher and the treatment of the subject. Ethics affect the research process in 5 main areas. They affect the topic choice as by choosing an area, the researcher might be confirming some peoples prejudice about a particular issue. They also affect the choice of subjects as a problem gaining access to study particular groups. The more powerful the group, the harder to obtain agreement to study its members. Another area affected is the people being studied. Sociologists must think of the effects their studies can have on people although it’s not always possible to anticipate them. The wider society is affected as families could have information given out about them they’d wish to keep hidden. Other ethical issues are informed consent and privacy. These are important as research participants should be offered the right to refuse, they should be able to remain private.